Good question. The answer is that his spirit lingers among those I call Trumpers. Cult-45 is very real, and the disgraced ex-president holds his diminished fan base like no other cult leader in our history.
The real culprits in nurturing Cult-45 are Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham at Fox News plus those two far right networks supporting Trump’s “Big Lie,” One America News Network (OAN) and Newsmax, although I have never watched those. However, the audience for these conspiracy mongers and promoters are Trump’s base, and there’s no better term for them than Trumpers. (Can you make such a term from those other names? Tuckerers?)
We know Trump’s base, loud though it may be, is diminished by the size of the crowds at his rally, but I see its reduction myself in readers who were Trump supporters in 2020 but don’t identify themselves with him any more. “Not all Republicans support Trump, including me,” more than a few readers have told me. “Stop attacking all Republicans,” they beg, and I concur. Not all Republicans, thank God, are Trumpers. Many want the Party to move on from him and are as upset as the rest of us that the majority of the party rank-and-file, according to polls, have been convinced by Trump’s Big Lie and still like him. That’s the power of a cult.
A friend driving north from Castle Rock on I-25 last week told me that she saw some flag waving Trumpers on an overpass, a couple of them displaying banners that read “Trump Won.” Really? These cult followers are really deep into it. They, not Trump, are the target of our anger and disgust — but they also reflect for us all how one insecure, monomaniacal and psychopathic man has infected a statistically significant percentage of the population with democracy-destroying beliefs that our electoral system is corrupt. It is not.
Equally disturbing, however, is the fact that because a large percentage of the Republican rank and file still likes Donald Trump, the Republican members of Congress feel that telling the truth about Trump could cost them something they hold more dear than the flag they pretend allegiance to — their own political survival.
But Republicans alone can’t win elections without their disaffected members and, more importantly, independent voters. Here in Colorado, the biggest voter registration is “unaffiliated.” It’s they who win elections in most races, and having only 80% of the Republican Party without a majority of independents will not do it for Trumpers except in the very reddest of districts. The rest of the electorate is appalled at what incumbent supporters of Trump have done. Painting the Jan. 6th insurrection as “noisy tourists” does not bode well for their all-important survival. At least it shouldn’t, and if those Republicans, especially Lauren Bobert, win re-election over a good, centrist Democratic candidate, our country is going to look a lot like our climate — beyond the tipping point into irreversible self-destruction.